Fire inspectors struggle to keep up with demands as number of inspectors dwindles

Fire marshals blame lack of funding, tax cap

INDIANAPOLIS - Township Fire Marshals in Marion County are looking to ways to keep up with fire safety inspections despite a decrease among their ranks.

The issue is front and center after township and state fire marshal inspectors returned to Salon Internacional.

The so-called convention center on the 6800 block of Michigan Road on the north side of Indianapolis was shut down on Saturday night.

"Absolutely, they put people at risk," said Pike Township Fire Marshal Sam Bruner.

The exit doors for the crowd inside were locked and blocked, fire extinguishers expired two years ago and the fire alarm system was not connected.

A total of 20 fire code violations were made public Wednesday.

"With us not being able to get into all these buildings, it's an eye-opener for me because this building was a banquet hall when it opened up, now it's a nightclub. We had no idea what was going on," Bruner told RTV6.

The problem on Michigan Road exposed an ongoing public safety threat in Indianapolis.

Fire Marshals are staffed with fewer inspectors.

They blame the lack of funding on consolidation and the state property tax cap.
     
Inspection priorities are schools, hotels and nursing homes, which are inspected at least once a year. Other buildings are inspected irregularly.

"Two years ago, I had five people, now (I'm) down to three," said Wayne Township Fire Marshal Randy Gulley.

Last year, his team of three inspected more than 1,000 properties representing 7 million square feet on the west side of Indianapolis.

Gulley has 4,500 inspectable sites that are his responsibility.

Hundreds are waiting for a check-up.

Gulley explained "we also do fire investigations, new construction time does not allow" to get to every property every year.

In an effort to step up inspections, fire departments are looking at possibly charging a fee for the inspections to hire more people to get the job done.

While officials say building inspections are critical, they point to the fact that 80 percent of fires occur in homes, which are not inspected.

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